Simon Kelner: A rare view of the patron saint of modern Brit art

Kelner's view

Share

As a founding father of modern advertising, Charles Saatchi
clearly knows a thing or two about image. He understands how to
influence public perception, and how to get a message across
powerfully and effectively.

He's allowed an image of himself to be constructed – the reclusive, truculent, punctilious contemporary art collector who moves the market like no other – and has played along with it for all its worth. Don't you just love someone who throws a fabulous party and doesn't turn up to it? Someone who is in public life, but rarely turns up in public? And who exists in a world where publicity is key, yet shuns all forms of publicity himself? You may know that he has a domestic goddess for a wife, and that he is the patron saint of every modern British artist.

But, because he cleverly chooses not to do interviews, he has – unlike many other significant contemporary figures – been able to keep to himself his feelings on such important matters as, say, The Apprentice, or, indeed, the legalisation of gay marriage. (We look instead to Archbishop Sentamu's weekly column in The Sun, sent every Sabbath by God straight to Wapping, for such enlightenment.) This means that when Mr Saatchi does hold forth on what interests him, it is something of a news story in its own right. What a brilliant piece of marketing!

So this intensely private man has just brought out a book in which he answers questions posed by journalists and members of the public. In the style of a Damien Hirst painting, its studiedly iconoclastic title is Be The Worst You Can Be: Life's Too Long For Patience & Virtue, and it contains, among many other pearls, his views on getting older, the vulgarity of the art world, dieting, being married to Nigella, and the Sugababes.

It makes fascinating and entertaining reading, and Saatchi is an original thinker whose opinions have a freshness that comes from his not being over-exposed. He has a fondness for the witty epithet – when asked about divorce, he said that "wives make excellent housekeepers. They always manage to keep the house" – and has an entertaining take on most subjects.

Do you have a party trick, was the question. Not attending, came the reply. He is honest and opinionated in a way that is very refreshing for someone with a public profile. One questioner asks him about his "lack of social conscience". "I may be a disappointing person in many ways," he responds, "but at least I have never fostered grand designs for social engineering." He says that local councillors, instead of polishing their green credentials, should concentrate on "having the lifts on the estates working, and not stinking of urine". Concentrate on little actions rather than grandstanding, he says.

He is particularly loquacious on what he calls the "hideousness of the contemporary art world", which, he says, has become "the sport of the Eurotrashy, Hedge-fundy, Hamptonites". He develops this theme: "Even a self-serving narcissistic show-off like me finds this new art world too toe-curling for comfort."

It's strong stuff, from someone who really knows. Perhaps he really is a show-off, in which case it's something of a shame that he doesn't show off a little more often.

 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own